Netanyahu says he’ll uphold Israel’s interests even if ‘best of friends’ doesn’t agree

Statement seen as pushback aimed at Washington over dispute on how to deal with Iran’s nuclear program

Stuart Winer is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (photo credit: Miriam Alster/Flash90)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (photo credit: Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has made clear he would back Israel’s interests over those of “the best of friends” in thwarting a nuclear Iran, a seeming reference to a recent standoff between Jerusalem and Washington over how to tackle Iran’s nuclear program.

Speaking at the start of a meeting with visiting Bavarian State Prime Minister Horst Seehofer on Wednesday, Netanyahu said that Israel is facing great challenges in preserving its security, the greatest of which is preventing Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons.

“As prime minister of Israel, it is my duty to uphold the vital interests of the State of Israel, to ensure its security and its future,” Netanyahu said. “I uphold these interests, not that it’s easy, because leadership is tested in upholding them even if there are disagreements with friends, even the best of friends.”

The remarks came amid a tense bout of accusations between Jerusalem and Washington over an alleged snubbing of Netanyahu by President Barack Obama. While officials in Israel claim Obama declined to meet with Netanyahu later this month, the White House claimed there was no such request made.

Both Israel and the US are publicly committed to preventing Iran from developing nuclear weapons, yet there remain grave differences of opinion on if, and when, to use military force.

The US has rebuffed requests by Israel to set a firm ultimatum for Iran on pain of military action, saying there is still time for sanctions and diplomacy to work.

Sources in Jerusalem said Netanyahu would continue to seek clear “red lines,” beyond which a military strike would be launched, Israel Radio reported Wednesday evening.

On Tuesday, Netanyahu launched an unprecedentedly bitter attack on the US administration, saying countries that refused to set deadlines for Iran to give up its nuclear program have no right to tell Israel to hold back on taking preemptive military action to thwart the regime’s nuclear ambitions.

“The world tells Israel to wait, because there is still time. And I ask: Wait for what? Until when? Those in the international community who refuse to put red lines before Iran don’t have a moral right to place a red light before Israel,” Netanyahu said.

Raphael Ahren contributed to this report.

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